Fifty-five percent of the voters turned out for parliamentary elections that gave the narrowest of victories–53 of 101 seats–to a three-party conservative coalition. The three parties will now form a government to replace the outgoing centrist coalition, whose leading party lost thirty seats and retains only seven. The winners ran on a free-market platform, promising continuity in basic economic policy. The losers were undone by factionalism, corruption, and demagogic rhetoric that proved more populist than popular.
Most of Estonia’s ethnic Russians, about 400,000 of the country’s total population of 1,450,000, are not citizens and cannot vote. Those who can vote tended to support a pro-Russian party which won six seats. Political isolation of the Russians is a serious long-term problem.
Estonia, more than any other former Soviet state, has taken the course of radical reform: a currency pegged to the D-mark, a simple and (nearly) flat tax, no import tariffs and rapid privatization with an open door to foreign investors. As “The Economist” notes this week, eventual Estonian entry into the European Union will entail a retreat into trade protectionism and agricultural subsidies, which the Estonians have also abolished.